A green light has been given to a program that will restore two-way traffic on some one-way streets in downtown South Bend.
On Wednesday night, the South Bend Common Council passed a 2014 budget that includes the mayor’s centerpiece $11 million Smart Streets Initiative.
“We’re going to see changes downtown next year, by the end of next year, construction season we’re going to see changes, not everything, this is a process and it’s going to unfold year by year but there will be noticeable positive change right here, including right out in front of this building,” said Mayor Pete Buttigieg, (D) South Bend.
South Bend’s city hall—the so-called County City Building--is on a six block section of Lafayette Street that is set to switch from one-way to two-way traffic about this time next year.
A four block section of William Street is also slated to be converted in the first phase of Smart Streets.
For now, more heavily traveled streets in front of such downtown landmarks like the Century Center and the Chase Tower will remain one-way.
“You have to start somewhere,” said DTSB Executive Director Aaron Perri. “Lafayette and William is the starting point so that way when we start addressing St. Joseph and Main Street, potentially the more viable streets for economic growth and activity, the traffic burden can be eased off of those and kind of redirected some to Lafayette and William.”
The 2014 budget also includes funding for a possible roundabout at Bartlett Street near Memorial Hospital. The roundabout would be designed to round up and re-direct south bound traffic.
“At the north end of downtown, there is only one way in across the Michigan Street Bridge so then you need to utilize the roundabout to help disperse the traffic across the two-way pairs that will exist,” said Perri. “That roundabout plays a critical role in diverting the traffic throughout the downtown instead of just putting it down maybe a four lane highway.”
This is a moment in the trajectory of this city,” said Mayor Buttigieg. “It’s the right time to step on the gas, not hit the brakes.”
The concept is to expand the pedestrian friendly atmosphere along the portion of Michigan Street that already has two-way traffic and has seen some commercial success.
“It feels like you're in a downtown,” said Aaron Perri. “You go one block off either side of that, you’re no longer in downtown, you’re on a highway. It’s not an area where you might want to spend time. That won’t be the case a few years from now.”